The tail spinning Blackhawks finally put an end to their nine game winless skid last night at Madison Square Garden. They jumped out to a quick 4–0 lead against the Rangers with a penalty shot, a screen shot, and two breakaway goals all in the first few minutes. Although it was against back up goalie Martin Biron (and the sarcastic MSG crowd started chanting “Henrik! Henrik!” after the second goal), I highly doubt Lundqvist stood a chance on any of the shots. Being the typical media frenzy that ensues at MSG, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked, “Who do you pick to win the Jack Adams (coach of the year) award?” by an MSG network broadcaster. “That man behind the Rangers’ bench” as he signaled towards Rangers coach John Tortorella.
The Rangers are one point behind NHL leading Detroit with 79 points. Not too shabby. What Quenneville may have forgotten though is that unlike the Rangers, the Blues don’t have the luxury to spend to the salary cap ceiling, bury horrible contracts in the minors (Redden), or pass of bad contracts to other teams (see Roszival, Gomez). The Blues are (technically) over the salary floor for the first time all season now that they have a nearly healthy line up for the first time. Even more important than payroll though is the fact that the Blues don’t get to play six games a season against the AHL Islanders or over a dozen games against teams like Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Winnipeg, and the rebuilding Senators. The Columbus Blue Jackets are the only team in the Western Conference that you should be embarrassed about losing to. After Tuesday’s embarrassment, the Blues answered the call by ringing up five goals last night, albeit in come from behind fashion.
So what does this all mean? If the Jack Adams award is truly based on coaching and coaching alone, the award goes to Ken Hitchcock. The Blues have dealt with more injuries, less payroll, and much stiffer competition than the Rangers. However, as most sports fans know, all leagues favor large market teams, so don’t’ be surprised to see Tortorella or NHL bosom buddy Mike Babcock take it home.
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Written by Patrick McLellan